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Freeview today announced the first roll out of its award-winning Accessible TV Guide, now available at Channel 555 on supported Freeview Play devices. 

Freeview’s Accessible TV Guide will make it simpler for viewers with accessibility needs, such as visual impairments or hearing loss, to discover and find content more easily.  

Developed with insight from viewers, advocacy groups, and accessibility research agencies, including the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Scope and the Digital Accessibility Centre, the Accessible TV Guide won Gold at this year’s Connected TV Awards for ‘Advancing the User Experience’.  

The first dedicated accessibility solution to launch on a UK TV platform, the guide is easy to find via Channel 555 on Freeview Play TVs and offers viewers a seamless experience which is uniform across devices and works straight out of the box.  

The user journey has been designed to be simple to navigate for viewers with visual impairments, with a high contrast UI, screen magnification, and a text-to-speech functionality. 

Upon selecting Channel 555 on a supported device, viewers will be asked for their preferred accessibility settings from the below options -  

  • Use Text to Speech for on screen navigation  
  • Show only programmes with audio description  
  • Show only programmes with subtitles  
  • Show only programmes with sign language  
Accessible TV Guide 'Welcome' screen - TV

Following this, viewers can choose to watch a demo of how the guide works or head straight to the guide. The guide will launch a filtered version of the linear TV schedule showing the content coming up that fits the viewer’s own accessibility criteria. From here viewers can browse the available content and select what they want to watch.  

Available on Freeview Play devices including models from Panasonic, LG and Toshiba, viewers with supported devices may need to retune their TVs to start receiving the Accessible TV Guide.  The full list of supported Freeview Play devices is available here.

The Accessible TV Guide will be rolling out across the full range of Freeview Play devices over the coming months. Alongside regular updates that will incorporate user feedback, new features are also set to launch on the guide in 2021. These include the integration of Freeview Play’s on demand content recommendations, which will be filtered according to each viewer’s accessibility needs.  

Gary Thomas, Low Vision Team Leader at the Digital Accessibility Centre, commented “This is a market leading product. I know of no other TV platform with this level of accessibility options. Freeview’s Accessible TV Guide is a one stop shop, with the option to filter programmes by subtitles, audio description and sign language. It’s easy to follow, and its default text-to-speech feature is a welcome original feature to help blind and visually impaired users. As a blind user, the Accessible TV Guide will allow me to read, plan, and access programmes independently which has not been possible for many years.” 

John Paton, Innovation and Technology Officer at RNIB, said: "This new guide is a truly innovative step forward in TV accessibility for blind and partially sighted people. Once the roll out is complete the guide will be available to anyone with a Freeview Play television or set-top box, and the channel number 555 is easy to find due to the tactile dot on the five button. This will make a huge difference in TV viewing for millions of people with sight loss across the UK." 

Kristina Barrick, Head of Digital Influencing at Scope, said: “We’re thrilled to have worked with Freeview on the launch of the Accessible TV Guide. We know from Scope’s own research that some disabled people experience significant accessibility barriers when it comes to entertainment. Disabled people have told us it can be very time-consuming trying to find TV shows that accommodate their access needs. It often involves hours of searching online to find accurate information about episodes that are available with audio description, subtitles and British Sign Language (BSL). This can make watching your favourite TV show a frustrating experience.  

Coronavirus has seen many disabled people spend months at home shielding, often feeling forgotten and alone and placing even more importance on access to television as a source of information and entertainment. Missing out on the TV programmes and films that everyone else is watching, leaves disabled people feeling even more isolated and excluded. 

We hope this guide will give disabled people more control over their TV viewing and encourage broadcasters to address the amount of content they make available with access services.” 

Vikki Cook, Broadcast Policy and D&I Director, Content Policy at Ofcom, commented “Ofcom welcomes the launch of Freeview’s accessible TV guide. People with visual and hearing impairments watch just as much TV as everybody else but they can face particular difficulties in using on-screen programme guides. Today’s announcement is a demonstration of how platforms such as Freeview can work collaboratively with manufacturers, charities and consumer groups to deliver Ofcom’s requirements in its updated code for programme guides. This kind of innovative approach to accessibility can help ensure that the choice of viewing for people with visual and hearing impairments isn’t unnecessarily restricted.”

Simon Hunt, Director of Strategy and Business Development for Freeview Play, commented, “Great content has the power to bring us all together. However, underpinning this is the ease in which we can all find what to watch and discover new shows. The new Accessible TV Guide will help millions of viewers with visual impairments, hearing loss and other accessibility needs to get so much more out of their TVs, and we are so pleased to be starting the roll out across Freeview Play.”